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Kamloops council to consider committee changes

Banning the public from standing committees is one of the recommendations council will consider, although the Community Charter may override such a move

Kamloops council will debate changes to the municipality’s committee structure at next week’s regular meeting after its governance select committee wrapped up its meetings this month ahead of a July deadline.

Following its second meeting, the committee reviewing standing committee terms of reference is recommending council have staff create a terms of reference template, develop a hybrid structure for forming committees and ban the public from standing committees altogether.

The recommended changes were voted on during a May 11 governance select committee meeting and are expected to be voted on by council at its May 30 meeting.

The four-member select committee, consisting of councillors Mike O’Reilly (chair), Nancy Bepple and Margot Middleton and Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson, voted 3-1 in favour of sending each recommendation to council. Hamer-Jackson was the lone dissenting voice against recommending the changes.

In March, the mayor made unilateral changes to standing committees, adding nine members of the public, many of whom were friends and political backers, to standing committees and removed three councillors from chair positions. In response, council voted 8-1 (with Hamer-Jackson opposed) to review standing committees.

Among councillors’ concerns was how the committees would function if unelected members had access to confidential city information through committees. The five standing committees in existence now were created by previous mayor Ken Christian and consisted of three council members. The standing committees deal largely with city operations.

On May 30, council will be asked to have staff amend its procedure bylaw to define the authority and operational procedures for standing and select committees, create a standard terms of reference template for future committees and a standardized process for appointing public members to standing, select and subcommittees. Staff would also be asked to create a hybrid approach for utilizing standing and/or select committees based on operational need and suggest to council whether to dissolve the current five standing committees.

Under a hybrid model, subgroups would feed up to select committees that feed up to standing committees of council.

Whether the recommendation to ban members of the public from standing committees can move ahead will be examined by staff and city legal counsel as the mayor, under the province’s Community Charter, has the ability to appoint members of the public to standing committees. Council, however, has purview over their terms of reference.

In making the recommendation, O’Reilly noted there is work on standing committees that can only be handled by council members, adding that select committees were a good option to involve public participation.

Deputy corporate officer Amanda Passmore told the committee, with respect to the confidentiality issue, that council could simply direct staff not to refer confidential or in-camera issues to standing committees and discuss them only at closed committee of the whole or regular meetings.

Passmore told the committee she reviewed the committee structures of 11 cities with populations of more than 10,000 people. She said she found the majority of them used select committees with processes for appointing public members, who did not participate during in-camera meetings. In her research, Passmore said, she found standing committees were used for longer-term issues, while select committees were more project-focused.

The five standing committees of council — civic operations, community and protective services, community relations and reconciliation, development and sustainability and finance — have been paused since March while being reviewed by the select committee. In their place, council has already approved three select committees — community policing, reconciliation and service agreement renewals.